If you are a member of the National Guard or Reserves and are eligible for Chapter 1606, Montgomery GI Bill – Selective Reserve (MGIB-SR) educational benefit program, a recent change was made that may affect your ability to fund your college education.
In February 2015 guidance was sent to college Certifying Officials from the VA, announcing changes to the Military Tuition Assistance (MTA) Program prohibiting the use of Military Tuition Assistance with the MGIB-SR (CH 1606). The announcement informed Certifying Officials that they could no longer certify Chapter 1606 benefits for a student if the student is also using MTA. Clearly, whomever was involved in making this decision does not have a full grasp of the educational landscape when it comes to the National Guard or Reserves, or fully understands the intent of Chapter 1606, in my humble opinion.
The issue is this, the DoD MTA program is a tuition and eligible course fees program. It is designed, as the name implies, to assist servicemembers with their education by providing funds to help them cover the cost of tuition at their institution. This program is specifically tied to tuition and fees. The MGIB-SR is not specifically tied to tuition and fees, as is the Post 9/11 GI Bill, and can be used for any educational-related expense.
The MGIB-SR benefit was enacted to provide funds to cover educationally related expenses for reservists at their institution, not just tuition. A reservist attending a college or university receives benefits based on their level of enrollment; full, half, or part-time. The benefits are paid directly to the servicemember/veteran, not to the institution as is the Post 9/11 GI Bill. If a reservist is attending a private college or university, MTA will not cover the full cost of tuition. The MGIB-SR provides funds that could have been used to help meet the unmet tuition costs, pay for books, help cover fees, help offset the cost of commuting to class, or any other related educational expense.
This change did not come from the Veteran’s Administration, rather, it was the DoD that implemented the change, apparently without discussing it with the VA or National Guard Bureau, as it pertained to the use of MTA. The change was implemented as part of change 3 to the DoDI 1322.25, the DoD MOU, which became effective in July 2014.
The VA and National Guard Bureau made arguments to the DoD about the change and how it would negatively impact Guardsmen and Reservists. However, no resolution was achieved, and the VA was forced to inform institutional Certifying Officials about the change in February 2015, as institutions could be in violation of the DoD MOU if students were certified incorrectly.
If the Obama Administration is sincere about increasing access to college, why would they allow this to happen? This change discriminates against National Guardsmen and Reservists, particularly if they choose to earn their college degree from a private institution.
So, what can be done about this? You can let your voice be heard and contact your National Representatives and let them know you disapprove of this change and how it will affect you. Also, you can contact the various military oriented lobbying groups, the National Guard Association of the United States, and the Enlisted Association of the National Guard and let your voice be heard. I know I plan on making a big noise about this!